Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bhola’s Family - by Freda Graf

It was great to return to our home for disabled and orphaned children on Bhola Island and to find there was a great feeling of a family again.  Everyone is much happier and working well together.

Our new Director has created an effective team and the staff responds to him extremely well.  Zakir’s family fit in very naturally and Neera (Zakir’s wife) has a good relationship with the staff.  It is a happy place to be and like all families they have their arguments but Zakir is kind but firm in keeping discipline.

Our new Housemother, Shefali appears to be a very positive member of staff, firm and slightly aloof which is what is needed to cope with the tittle-tattle that inevitably goes on. Shefali is responsible for the kitchen, cooking and buying produce although all the staff and some of the children help with the preparation of the meals. She manages the kitchen quietly and efficiently. She is responsible for the smaller children but needs help with the older girls who can be very naughty.

A number of new children of different ages, with a variety of disablements have joined us. They have settled very well into the home and have become part of the family. It is not difficult to find new children because there are many disabled children on Bhola. This is sadly due to the poor level of maternity services and the prevalence of first cousin marriages.

I attended a very positive meeting with the Bangladeshi Trustees, where many issues relating to the home were discussed. It was good to welcome two new Trustees, an ex headmaster of the local school and a Principal of the local college who has recently retired. Both the new Trustees are very interested in the home and are well respected members of the community. Zakir hosted a barbecue for the Trustees and staff to meet together. He is an excellent chef and it was a very enjoyable and positive evening.

My visit coincided with the celebration of Cow Cutting Eid, which was a fascinating experience for me. I had images of blood everywhere and it being a rather unpleasant situation, however I have never seen such a clean and gentle killing of an animal. It was done in such a humane way and I found the subsequent butchering fascinating but then I am a nurse and it was so much cleaner that working in the operating theatre!

The Boundary (the home and garden) is looking smart and has been cleaned up since our last visit. The main buildings have been washed; in fact I thought they had been painted. The vegetable gardens have been organised and have been divided into rows. Groups of boys have responsibility for weeding and caring for the crops. New concrete pathways have been made around the side of the campus and some vegetation has been removed to protect the boundary wall. The boys and staff under the direction of Zakir have done all the work.

It was my first experience of visiting during the monsoon, although it should have ended before I arrived. Yes, it is wet and when it rains – it is a downpour. I will never grumble again about our heavy showers! The humidity is very exhausting especially when it stops raining and the sun comes out!  I shouldn’t complain as I was only there for a short time. Consequently, much of the land at Valumia was under water but it won’t be long before the new planting will start.

It was wonderful to see how the home was moving forward under the excellent leadership of Zakir. It was the best visit I have had and it was very positive to hear Zakir’s plans for the future especially with the ideas for the rehabilitation of the older children.